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J Bacteriol. 1985 Aug;163(2):716-23.

Flocculation in Azospirillum brasilense and Azospirillum lipoferum: exopolysaccharides and cyst formation.


The phenomena of flocculation and floc formation by Azospirillum brasilense Sp7 (ATCC 29145) and Azospirillum lipoferum Sp59b (ATCC 29707) were studied in aerobic liquid cultures. Carbon sources representative of various entry pathways in combination with various nitrogen sources induced flocculation in both species of azospirilla. Noticeably, the combination of fructose and nitrate was the most effective in terms of floc yields. Phase-contrast microscopic observations revealed a transition in cell morphology from freely motile, vibrioid cells to nonmotile, highly refractile encysting forms during the formation of flocs. The nonmotile forms in flocs appeared to be entangled within a fibrillar matrix, and the cells were highly resistant to desiccation. Dried flocs kept for almost 6 months still maintained the highly refractile encysting forms, and their viability was confirmed by pellicle formation and acetylene reduction in semisolid malate medium. Electron microscopic observations of the desiccated flocs revealed the presence of cell forms containing abundant poly beta-hydroxybutyrate granules within a central body and surrounded by a thick layer of exopolysaccharides. The latter were characterized by alkali and acid digestion, crude cellulase hydrolysis, and calcofluor staining. It was concluded that the overproduction of exocellular polymers induces the flocculent growth and is associated with the concomitant transformation of vegetative cells to the desiccation-resistant encysting forms under limiting cultural conditions.

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